Learn about the stages of a personal injury case
Being involved in a lawsuit is not something most people have gone through. So, after suffering a personal injury, many people are unaware of what to do. You may ask yourself questions like “what is the process of a personal injury claim?” or “how do I file a personal injury lawsuit?” It can be a complicated process, especially if you’ve never filed a personal injury claim before.
The following steps outline the process of a personal injury lawsuit, from treating your injury to the final judgment or settlement. Most important, make sure you talk to an experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer at our law firm as soon as possible. We can help you every step of the way. Contact us and schedule a free consultation to learn more about your legal rights.
How much time do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?
In North Carolina, the deadline to file a personal injury lawsuit is generally three years from the date of the accident. However, other deadlines can apply in some situations, and only an attorney can advise you of which deadline applies in your case.
Moreover, just because you have three years to file personal injury lawsuit doesn’t mean you should wait that long to take legal action. The sooner you take the suggested steps below, the stronger your legal case will be in most instances.
First, see a doctor
The first step before you even think about filing a lawsuit is to seek medical treatment for your injury. Many people skip this if they feel fine after an accident, but pain can develop over time, and you could still be injured even if you feel no symptoms. So, it is always advisable to be examined by a medical professional.
This is obviously crucial for your health, but getting medical attention also protects your legal rights. Seeing a doctor creates documentation of your injuries that you need to support your claim or lawsuit. It also makes it harder for the insurance company to dispute or downplay your injuries.
A step by step look at the personal injury lawsuit process
Step 1: The initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer
Many people are hesitant to hire a lawyer. Even if you aren’t sure whether you want to hire a lawyer, you should at least contact one. You can schedule a free consultation and get answers about your legal options with no obligation to hire the attorney.
A free consultation is an opportunity to discuss the details of your case and get a professional opinion on the best course of action for your case. Be sure to bring any accident documentation, medical records, and notes that can be useful for building your case. If you’re missing documentation, though, you should still schedule a consultation as soon as possible. Your lawyer can investigate and find any additional documentation you need.
Step 2: The investigation
To move forward with a lawsuit after the initial consultation, your case needs to be investigated. Your personal injury attorney will begin collecting and analyzing the details of your claim and contacting the necessary parties involved. Evidence may include police reports, physical evidence from the accident scene, photos, witness testimony, medical records, and bills.
While all this is going on, your attorney should update you and be attentive to any questions you may have.
Step 3: Settlement negotiations
Remember, even if you file a lawsuit, there is no guarantee that your case will go to trial. Most cases settle out of court. Your attorney will negotiate with the insurance company throughout the process and can reach a settlement at any point. Your attorney can also advise you as to whether a particular settlement offer is in your interest. However, the ultimate decision whether to accept or reject a settlement offer is up to the injured person (you).
Step 4: Mediation
Before trial, the parties may go to mediation to try to reach a resolution outside court. No matter the outcome of the mediation, what happens during the process can affect the rest of your case. Having an experienced lawyer handle the mediation is important.
Step 5: Jurisdiction
In certain circumstances, you may be able to choose where to file your lawsuit in North Carolina. You can almost always file your personal injury lawsuit in the county where your injury took place, but there may be other courts that have jurisdiction as well, depending on the circumstances. This is a very important decision since different courts may be more favorable depending on the circumstances of your legal case. Only an attorney who knows the law and the courts can explain which jurisdiction is in your interest.
Step 6: Pretrial
Different phases happen before a trial begins. After you (the plaintiff) file a lawsuit, a judge will set a deadline for each phase. Depending on the case, the phases can last months to years.
The first phase is the complaint and answer phase. This is where a document with the allegations of your injury is delivered to the party responsible for your injury (the defendant). The defendant must then send a document admitting or denying the allegations.
During pre-trial proceedings, your attorney may take depositions (sworn statements about the case). Both sides engage in the discovery process to review the evidence. Both sides can also make various motions, which your attorney can explain to you.
Step 7: Trial
During the trial, your attorney will present your side to a judge and/or jury. Then the defendant will present their defense. The judge or jury will then look at the details of your case to determine fault.
To break it down, the trial will consist of six parts:
- Jury selection
- Opening statements
- Witness testimony & cross-examination
- Closing arguments
- Jury instruction
- Deliberation and verdict
After a settlement is reached or your case is won, your lawyer will work on collecting the compensation and distributing the funds where needed. So, you will receive the funds owed to you, and your attorney will receive their fee. Various lienholders (such as medical providers) may also get a portion of your settlement or verdict, but your attorney may be able to reduce those costs to put more money in your pocket.
Step 8: Post-trial
Sometimes, after a case is won, the defendant may try to file a motion to reduce the amount awarded to you. Either side can also pursue an appeal, which involves going to a higher court.
Don’t go to trial alone
As you learned from the steps above, filing a lawsuit is complicated. While you’re legally allowed to file a lawsuit on your own, it’s in your interest to get professional help. At Brent Adams & Associates, we know how to handle the process. We have experience getting results even in the most challenging cases. Our legal team takes pride in helping make things right for injury victims.
If you have any questions regarding filing a personal injury lawsuit, contact our law firm today. We will help you with every step of the process. You can count on us to build a strong case and fight for the compensation you deserve.